14/05/2018 17:46 BST | Updated 14/05/2018 17:46 BST

Let’s Get Real – The Work On LGBTI Equality Is So Far From Being Over, It’s Ridiculous

New laws aren’t appearing on the statute books as frequently as they once were

Arctic-Images via Getty Images

If I handed you a map and asked you to pinpoint the countries that are leading the way when it comes to LGBTI equality – who would you pick?

Maybe the Netherlands; it was the first country to introduce equal marriage back in 2001 and Amsterdam Pride attracts thousands. You’d probably mention a few countries in Scandinavia too? Perhaps Germany, it voted for marriage equality last summer after all? Or what about Ireland after a great 2015 that saw new family and legal gender recognition laws passed there?

The ILGA-Europe Rainbow Europe country ranking paints an unexpected picture. Reality is very different to popular perceptions. None of those countries are number one – that particular honour goes to Malta, for the third year in a row. Germany and Ireland score points for just about half of the criteria that our Rainbow Europe Map counts. Sweden comes in 10th place overall and the Netherlands is actually outside the top ten altogether! That’s right, some of the countries that have received a lot of media coverage for certain LGBTI laws are not legislating in all areas. And some who have historically blazed a trail for equality are now ranked as distinctly lukewarm when it comes to law-making.

What does the 2018 Rainbow Europe Map and Index tell us? Well, our annual benchmarking tool shows us that progress on LGBTI equality law and policy is slowing down in Europe. New laws aren’t appearing on the statute books as frequently as they once were. And this stagnation isn’t as a result of having very little left to legislate for either. Only 16 out of the 49 countries ranked on our Map score over 50%. When it comes to LGBTI law and policy, there is so much work left for European governments to do.

So why does this matter so much now? Well, you’ve probably noticed that the political climate in Europe is hectic right now, to put it mildly. ILGA-Europe can sense it and so can our members across the region. There a perceptible increase in populist, nationalist rhetoric, designed to paint certain groups of people as a ‘threat’. When you combine this with a growing backlash against human rights and civil society organisations (in countries both inside and outside the EU), it’s a toxic mix for marginalised communities to live and work in.

In times of repression, law and policies are often the last line of defense for LGBTI people to rely upon. So, if laws aren’t being passed, monitored or implemented properly in the first place, then we have a big problem.

Now, ILGA-Europe are not being alarmist for the sake of it. We want the Rainbow Europe Map to be a wake-up call for policymakers all over Europe – but are also coming to the table armed with suggestions for how to improve. What do we suggest? Simply put, for governments to start moving, no matter where on the country ranking scale they find themselves. No-one has reached a score of 100% for LGBTI law and policy yet!

Our Rainbow Europe web module features recommendations from ILGA-Europe for national governments. Country-by-country, we list these practical recommendations, based on priority areas highlighted by the LGBTI activists working on the ground. These are just a starting point; if governments want to build real momentum, we say reach out to our members in your country to find out what else there is to do.

And even though the political climate in Europe is pretty heavy right now, as a consequence, positive engagement with LGBTI activists now will reap even greater rewards. European governments – if you choose to invest time, energy and resources in LGBTI equality efforts now, the benefits for LGBTI people (and everyone in your country) will be enormous.

Oh, and if any of the governments listed on the Rainbow Europe country ranking were looking for the perfect opportunity to reach out and get in touch with the LGBTI movements in their country, just a reminder that International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is coming up on 17 May. Just saying…

  • Check out all the 2018 Rainbow Europe information at and follow the hashtag #RainbowEurope on social media!